Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Caution against Grain Free dog/cat food!


Grain Free pet food has been growing immensely popular over the past decade. Instead of traditional grains like rice, barley or oats, companies have been adding peas, lentils and chickpeas. The Food and Drug Administration have recently announced that they will be investigating a link between Grain Free diets and a common type of heart disease in dogs called dilated cardiomyopathy, or D.C.M.
CVCA (a practice of 19 veterinary cardiologists) is responsible for notifying the FDA about concerns. There has been a shocking increase in the cases of D.C.M that they are seeing and the common factor were Grain Free diets. There have been no definite studies done yet to verify this information but they are well on their way.
Dr. Lisa Freeman, a veterinary nutritionist and researcher at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tuft’s University, has been skeptical about the new “fad” diet: “Contrary to advertising and popular belief, there is no research to demonstrate that grain free diets offer any health benefits over diets that contain grain… Grains have not been linked to any health problems except in the rare situation when a pet has an allergy to a specific grain.”
Another concern about these diets is the low amount of taurine (an amino acid important in the metabolism of fats, which is required for both cats and dogs) Many dogs found to have developed D.C.M had shockingly low levels of taurine. This lack of taurine could also be the cause these heart related issues.
We are adamantly following the research and will be updating our clients as new information becomes available. We are advising that, if your pet is currently on a Grain Free food, to switch to a more traditional diet. We keep a well updated best/worst food list that we would be happy to share with you. If you have any questions or concerns about which diet is best for your pet, please ask! We are here to make sure you are well informed and your pet is healthy and happy!


Sources:
The New York Times, Popular Grain-Free dog foods may be linked to heart disease: Jan Hoffman July 24, 2018
Vetnutrition.tufts.edu, A broken heart: Risk of heart disease in boutique or grain free diets and exotic ingredients. Tuft’s Clinical Nutrition Team June 4, 2018

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Spring has sprung! Safety Tips for warmer weather

Spring is here! Finally…
Along with Spring comes lots of outdoor activities and some potential dangers, today we’re going to go over keeping our pets (and children!) safe this season!
First is ticks, all the snow hasn’t even melted in my neck of the woods (way up in the Berkshires in little known Peru, MA) but the ticks are already out, and abundantly so! Many all-natural products say they can keep your pet free of fleas and ticks but we have not yet found one that works as well as the commercial products. The good quality products are tested vigorously and are generally very safe to use so, make sure your pet is on a good flea and tick product (check out our other blog for more details). That may not be enough to keep those pesky pests off of you and your family. There are many natural products you can use on your self and outside to keep them off of the humans like Rose Geranium essential oils or Diatomaceous earth (DE) which is natural occurring sedimentary rock crushed into powder that works well for fleas, ticks, cockroaches and earwigs!
Check out this website: https://www.campwander.com/blogs/camp-wander/kid-pet-friendly-tick-repellent for an all-natural product that you can use daily on yourself and children. (You shouldn’t need to use this on your pet if they are already on a good flea and tick product but it is safe for them to come in contact with it.)
LAWN CARE
When it comes to lawn care and pesticides a good rule of thumb is to keep kids and pets away from ANY treatment for a good 24 hours. If you are using a lawn care company go by their recommendation and ask for a printout of products and ingredients they use!
*Dogs tend to eat fertilizers so always keep an eye for when he’s around those areas where fertilizer was laid. They have a sweet smell and taste and can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
* Ingredients that are very dangerous to pets: 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), atrazine, dicamba. Avoid these completely, if able!
* Mulches: cocoa mulch is gaining in popularity but if ingested can cause the same dangerous effects as eating dark chocolate. Mulch is also a great place for fungi to grow! Eating any fungus could make your pet very sick or even be fatal. Rake mulch regularly to avoid any growth.
*Keep ground clear of any fallen or rotting fruits! Your dog or cat may think it’s a great treat but even fresh fruit can make them ill.
GRILLING
Spring and Summer are the best time to grill and hang outside but the grill brings with it a lot of dangers for your pet. Try and keep children and pets at least 3 feet away to protect against burns. Always keep grease and fat traps concealed and empty them regularly! Even grilling tools can make a dangerous snack: used skewers, tin foil and plastic wrap can be very enticing if they have marinade or juices on them! If ingested they can cause blockages or even intestinal tears leading to very expensive and invasive surgery.
Food no-nos: fat scraps can cause pancreatitis, GI pain and diarrhea in cats and dogs. Onions and garlic contain thiosulphate which can cause hemolytic anemia. Another forgotten one is corn on the cob, while corn itself is okay the cob cannot be broken down and can cause GI issues along with blockages.
Alcohol is never okay for pets. Wine is made of grapes which we all know is a food no-no and hops in beer is also very dangerous. Those main ingredients aside, the physiology of cats and dogs is different from humans. They do not process and breakdown alcohol the same way we do. They can get ethanol toxicosis and/or neurological issues from even small amounts of alcohol.
As a vigilant dog owner you may know all of these things but it is always a good idea to REMIND YOUR GUESTS! Many people who don’t have pets aren’t aware of the general do’s and don’ts.

WILDLIFE
Spring means lots of baby animals ALL OVER! Please keep children and pets away from wildlife. If they are in a high traffic area or appear injured get ahold of a wildlife rehabilitator. They will advise you whether the animal will need to be removed or just left alone. Please contact our hospital at 413-268-8387 or Cummington Wildlife at 413-695-6854 if you find any animal that looks like it might need help. If does not appear injured or in a dangerous situation PLEASE LEAVE THEM ALONE!
Mowing the lawn? Look out for rabbit nests: they look like a regular old spot of dead grass but can hold baby bunnies! If you do find a nest it is best to just leave it alone, even if momma isn’t there she will come back. A safe way to check is the tic-tac-toe trick: lay out some grass or twigs over the nest in a tick-tac-toe pattern, if in 24 they have not been disturbed momma bunny may be injured and you should contact a rehabber.
Please feel free to contact us at the clinic for any questions or concerns!
Enjoy the warm weather!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Heartworm Disease

Most dog owners are aware of the dangers associated with heartworm disease, what they may not know is that it is becoming more widespread and more prevalent in New England than it ever was before. At our Massachusetts veterinary practice the only cases of heartworm positive dogs were animals that came from down South. The past couple of years has shown a growing number of heartworm positive dogs that have never left New England. What used to be a southern endemic has spread up North.

Heartworm disease is spread by mosquitos, they bite an infected animal and pick up baby heartworms called microfilaria. Then the infected mosquito will bite another animal where the microfilaria enters the blood stream and mature into fully grown heartworms. These worms live in the heart, lungs and surrounding vessels and can cause severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage and even death. Treatment is also very expensive and can be risky.

Luckily, testing is easy and readily available and heartworm preventative is very safe and easy to give! We recommend pets stay on heartworm preventative all year (most protect against intestinal parasites as well; win-win!) Our practice uses Interceptor® Plus (milbemycin oxime/praziquantel), it prevents heartworm disease and treats adult hookworm, roundworm, whipworm and tapeworms. We have found this particular preventative is generally well accepted by our canine patients and see very few side effects. Of course, there are several preventatives on the market so the pet owner can do research and shop around if need be.

In order to begin a preventive an animal would  have to show negative on a heartworm test. Giving a preventative to a positive dog could cause anaphylaxis and may result in death. In the early stages of the disease it’s possible for a dog to show absolutely no signs or symptoms. The American Heartworm Association recommends annual testing, the sooner we can detect heartworm disease the better the prognosis for your pet! We only need a small blood sample and run the test in house, most of the time we get results within 10 minutes!

Heartworms can affect our feline pets as well, although they are not a traditional host. Please read this excerpt from the American Heartworm Association in regards to heartworm disease in cats: “Heartworm disease in cats is very different from heartworm disease in dogs. The cat is an atypical host for heartworms, and most worms in cats do not survive to the adult stage. Cats with adult heartworms typically have just one to three worms, and many cats affected by heartworms have no adult worms. While this means heartworm disease often goes undiagnosed in cats, it’s important to understand that even immature worms cause real damage in the form of a condition known as heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). Moreover, the medication used to treat heartworm infections in dogs cannot be used in cats, so prevention is the only means of protecting cats from the effects of heartworm disease.”

*Information gathered from www.heartwormsociety.org and www.interceptorplus.com/

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Treating with Cold Laser Therapy

The Family Veterinary Center recently purchased a state of the art cold laser to aid in the treatment of all of our patients! The model we're using is the Cutting Edge MLS (Multiwave Locked System) Cold Laser. The benefit of this advanced laser system is the ability to customize parameters such as frequency, time, and emission intensity for each patient's unique needs.
With this laser we can treat all kinds of issues including, but not limited to: chronic and acute pain, wounds, edema, inflammation, skin issues, granulomas, etc. It also assists in shortening post surgical healing time.
This laser has the ability to treat all small and large animal species including birds and pocket pets.

How does it work?
LASER stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emissions of Radiation. Non-thermal photons of light are emitted and pass through the layers of skin (specific depth depends on the wavelength/intensity setting). When the target area has been reached the light energy gets absorbed and interacts with light sensitive elements in the cells (similar to photosynthesis in plants). This stimulates mitochondria (the power house of the cell) to speed up the production of ATP (Adenosine triphosphate- which is an organic compound found in all living things). This increases cell growth and intracellular metabolism resulting in faster healing, normalized tissues, and a reduction of pain or inflammation.

Especially considering chronic pain and arthritis, laser therapy makes an amazing addition to acupuncture and chiropractic treatments! Call our office to find out if laser therapy will help your pet and discuss treatment plans!! (413-268-8387)

Check out the Benefits and biological effects offered by www.coldlasers.org :

Benefit of Cold Lasers
  • Easy to apply
  • Extremely safe
  • Non-Toxic
  • Non-Invasive
  • No side effects or pain
  • Cost effective for both the practitioner and patient
  • Highly effective in treating ailments (more than 90% efficacy)
  • Superior alternative to analgesics, NSAID's and other medications
  • Reduces the need for surgery
  • Works synergistically with other modalities like Chiro, Acupuncture, and PT
General Therapeutic Laser Biological Effects
  • Increased Cell Growth: Laser photons accelerates cellular reproduction and growth.
  • Increased Metabolic Activity: Photons initiate a higher outputs of specific enzymes, greater oxygen and food particle loads for blood cells and thus greater production of the basic food source for cells, Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP).
  • Faster Wound Healing: Cold laser photons stimulates fibroblast development and accelerates collagen synthesis in damaged tissue
  • Anti-Inflammatory Action: Laser photons reduce swelling caused by bruising or inflammation of joints resulting in enhanced joint mobility.
  • Increased Vascular Activity: Laser photons induce temporary vasodilation that increases blood flow to effected areas.
  • Reduced Fibrous Tissue Formation:Laser photons reduce the formation of scar tissue following tissue damage from: cuts, scratches, burns or post surgery.
  • Stimulated Nerve Function: Laser photon exposure speeds the process of nerve cell reconnect ion to bring the numb areas back to life.
  • Pain Reduction: Almost all systems have a mode of operation specifically designed to reduce pain.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Pet Insurance


Finding a good Pet Insurance can seem like a very daunting task; a plan that works great for one family might not fit for another. Pet insurance companies offer the same general types of coverage and are processed similarly, but the deciding factors are in the details! Different from human insurance: your pet would come in for their visit, you would pay up front, then submit a claim to your insurance company and they confer with your veterinary office and reimburse you. Most companies and plans are compatible with all veterinary clinics. (Some will pay out just by looking at your detailed receipt.)

I went to four of the major insurance companies to get quotes, I used my own dog's stats: a 10 year old long haired mini dachshund with no current medical concerns:

Trupanion: $82.91/month with $200 deductible (lifetime per incident deductible*) This plan covers illnesses and injuries including specialties but NO routine visits (vaccines, flea and tick, heartworm, etc.) There is an additional rider for about $10/month that adds coverage of acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, etc. They have no payout limit**

Embrace: $44.78/month with $750 annual deductible (an 80% reimbursement plan) This plan covers illness and injury including specialties but no routine visits nor prescription coverage. Though, their standard plan DOES include acupuncture/chiropractic and holistic options. They also offer military discounts and electronic withdrawal discounts. They also offer a "Healthy Pet Deductible" meaning your pet's annual deductible automatically goes down by $50 each year that you don't receive a claim reimbursement.

Doing my research I wanted to get a quote from "the highest rated pet insurance company": Healthy Paws. For $55.46/month with an annual $750 deductible and 60% reimbursement. They do NOT include pre-existing, spay/neuter, or routine. They DO include Alternative Treatment which covers Acupuncture, chiropractic and hydrotherapy.

Lastly, a little less known company (for pet insurance) Nationwide (I am not sure if plans can be adjusted if you have a regular policy through them- but definitely worth looking into!) They offer 3 basic plans including a wellness plan that covers routine exams, vaccines, heartworm preventative, etc. (most pet insurances don't offer this option). Wellness plan was $22/month with no deductible but an annual maximum payout of $500/month. Their whole pet option covers illness, injury and general routine care: $237.69/month with a $250 annual deductible. What I liked about this plan (although it was the most expensive) it really has the most coverage, they include all routine visits in this policy along with the injury and illness.

Tips for when you're looking at insurance:
Especially if you have a pure bred dog: check their pre-existing condition list and exclusion list!! And check to see if your breed is on the exclusion list- a lot of companies won't cover an issue if it's congenital or hereditary (esp. English Bulldogs, Pugs, German Shepherds, etc.) I saw many companies don't cover things that you might expect. Some companies also cover (or partially cover) prescription foods. This could be a big benefit if the need ever arose.
If you're getting insurance for a puppy or kitten check to see if the policy will cover spaying or neutering. Most policies won't cover your vaccines but the second biggest cost with a puppy or kitten is spay/neuter surgery. For the most coverage your best bet is to get insurance while your pet is young, this will cancel out most of the "pre-existing conditions".
Always check each companies FAQs, you might learn something you never thought of before and gives you a good general idea of their policies without having to read every detail.
Also, most policies have a waiting period that varies for injuries and illnesses, make sure you check these details. Rule of thumb is: if you have a question, give them a call!

For a general overview of the major pet insurances please check out:  https://www.petinsurancereview.com/ ; https://naphia.org/   or
https://www.consumersadvocate.org/pet-insurance/ (I do not know if this company received any kind of reimbursement for their listings but they break down the different pros and cons in a very user friendly way)

According to NAPHIA (North American Pet Health Insurance Association), there are 13 pet insurance companies in the US and Cananda:
• American Modern Insurance Group
• Embrace Pet Insurance
• FIGO Pet Insurance, LLC
• Hartville Pet Insurance Group
• Healthy Paws Pet Insurance and Foundation
• Independence American Insurance Company IHC
• Nationwide
• PetFirst Healthcare
• Pethealth Inc.
• PetPartners
• Petplan
• Pets Best Insurance Services
• Pets Plus Us
• Trupanion
• Western Financial Insurance Company

*Lifetime per incident deductible- This means it is applied only once to any given condition during the lifetime of your pet. Once the deductible amount has been met for any given injury or illness, all future medical costs associated with that injury or illness will be eligible for coverage. For example: you would pay your deductible for your dog's first ear infection but each recurring ear infection would be covered by insurance (once deductible is met).
**Payout Limit- some insurances have an annual payout limit meaning that once they have paid that specific amount they do not cover anything additional (make sure you watch out for this!)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Routine blood work

Checking blood work on your pet, even if they appear healthy, can be very beneficial. We recommend blood work while your pet is healthy to establish a baseline, knowing this information can help in establishing what's normal for each individual and if they become ill, interpret changes.
Routine blood work is great for early detection of disease and can help identify and treat an issue early before it becomes a more serious problem. For example, approximately 75% of kidney function can be gone before showing in any physical symptoms. Being proactive in these situations can significantly increase your pet's lifespan.
The standard blood work profiles we offer consist of a CBC, Chemistry, Urinalysis, and Fecal test.
CBC stands for complete blood count, this looks at white cells, red cells, platelets, etc. and can give information in regards to hydration status, anemia, infection, clotting ability and immune system responses.
Chemistry looks at individual enzymes and substances in the blood to establish how internal organs are working (liver, kidneys, pancreas, thyroid) and if diseases are present.
A Urinalysis verifies pH and concentration in urine, along with checking for blood, bacteria, crystals, etc. This gives a more complete look at the  renal system.
Fecal tests check for internal parasites that animals can pick up very easily from many different sources. We offer full fecal examinations that include a test for giardia and coccidia.
We have established discounted Junior and Senior screens with our laboratory so it is the best time to come in for blood work! We recommend blood work to be done every 2-3 years on pets under 8 years of age and annually over 8 years. It is important to check chemistry levels more frequently on animals who are on long term medications (thyroid, NSAIDs, steroids, incontinence medication, etc.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Flea, Tick and Mosquitos: Prevention and Diseases

Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes  are not only a nuisance but can cause some serious diseases in our canine and feline friends! At Family Vet Center we recommend staying on a flea and tick preventative seasonally and a heartworm preventative all year.
Not all preventatives are created equal. Our NO NO list includes (but is not exclusive to): ANY Hartz products, Sergeant, Top Spot, Pet Armor, Sentry Fiproguard and BioSpot. Many of these products contain permethrins that can cause severe tremors or even fatality in felines (even when they are labeled for cats)! Frontline has also made our NO NO list recently as we have had many complaints on lack of efficacy.
It is recommended you get all your medications from a veterinarian but if you choose an online pharmacy or store make sure to verify where they get their products from! We have been seeing many bootlegged products that can contain many harmful ingredients. Also, manufacturers will generally stand behind their products sold through a licensed vendor, but not products sold through online pharmacies.
On to our trusted products:
~Bravecto: prevents fleas and ticks, safe for use in dogs and cats 6 months and older, given orally for dogs and topically for cats every 12 weeks!
~Advantage II- fleas and lice only, applied topically monthly. Safe in dogs over 7 weeks and cats over 8 weeks.
~Advantix II- for dogs only! Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. Applied topically monthly, safe in dogs over 7 weeks.
~Revolution: Fleas, intestinal parasites, ear mites and heartworm prevention. Safe in dogs over 6 weeks and cats over 8 weeks. Applied topically monthly.
~Seresto collar: fleas, ticks and lice. Safe on dogs over 7 weeks and cats over 10 weeks. This collar lasts 8 months! (remove for swimming or baths)
(Call for approved hearworm medications, this is available through prescription only)

Tick borne illnesses:
~Lyme disease: contracted by deer tick or black-legged tick. Symptoms include: acute lameness, fever, swollen joints, decreased/no appetite, "not acting themselves". Long term/left untreated can lead to damaged/painful joints or kidney disease. Vaccination is available- ask your Vet!
~Anaplasmosis: contracted by deer tick or black-legged tick. Symptoms include: low energy, fever, swollen/painful joints, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea. Long term/left untreated can cause low WBC or platelet count, chronic pain, and neurological symptoms.
~Ehrichiosis: contracted by brown dog tick. Symptoms include: decreased appetite, depression, fever, painful joints, pale gums, bloody nose. Long term/untreated: blindness, autoimmune diseases, bleeding complications.
All of the tick borne diseases are easily treated with antibiotics (doxycycline), full recovery of symptoms is expected when detected and treated early, but some remain positive through testing. (Other than Lyme disease we will treat depending on symptoms.)

Heartworm disease- mosquitoes transfer larvae through biting your dog and these larvae grow in the heart into adult heartworms. There are no immediate symptoms but will soon present with a mild, persistent cough, tiring easily, decreased appetite and weight loss. Immediate treatment is recommended since left untreated heartworm can cause heart failure, lung disease, and sudden death. Treatment can only be done through your veterinarian.

We recommend annual testing, we have an in-house test that checks for all of these diseases and you can get the results in 10 minutes!